Looking back at the end of the 2021 Legislative session, I am grateful for the opportunity we had to tackle some big-picture ideas for South Dakota. With an unprecedented amount of one-time money, legislators took the opportunity to buy down debt, invest in infrastructure, bolster public safety, and make investments in education.
Funding was allocated to expand broadband access across the state, upgrade the rail line from Ft. Pierre to Rapid City, take care of state-owned dams, improve statewide public safety radio coverage, and address the need to repair bridges and culverts on township and county secondary roads.
With the help of private investors and a $50 million infusion of state money, South Dakota became the 50th state to create a needs-based scholarship fund. The State is partnering with private industry to establish the Bioprocessing Innovation Institute at the Research Park in Brookings. We allocated funding to replace the Mineral Industries Building at the School of Mines, as well as upgrade the dairy research and training facility at SDSU.
The appropriations committee spent countless hours taking public input on how to spend one-time money, as well as the best way to allocate projected ongoing revenues as they crafted the FY22 budget, which starts July 1. In a year when inflation grew by about 1.5%, at the Governor’s request, the legislature increased funding by more than that for “the big three.” Teachers, community support providers, and state employees were given a minimum raise of 2.4%. Some will see even larger percentage increases as we work to become more competitive in the marketplace. Salaries for Supreme Court justices and circuit judges were increased by six percent. The base salary for constitutional officers will increase on July 1, 2023.
The final FY22 budget includes about $1.8 billion each in state general funds and federal fund expenditure authority, as well as more than $1.4 billion in “other” funds, for a total annual budget of almost $5.1 billion.
Legislators who serve on the Appropriations Committee deserve extra thanks for their work. Whereas other committees typically meet twice a week for a two-hour stretch each time, the Appropriations Committee meets every morning from eight a.m. until noon, and frequently after the floor session in the afternoon. Many of the appropriators are at the Capitol every morning an hour or two before the committee meeting starts.
While not everyone’s spending priority was addressed this year, I believe that we were able to make investments that will help South Dakota for years to come.